Questions tagged [terminology]

Words, phrases, and acronyms specific to the study of linguistics.

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41
votes
15answers
443k views

What's the difference between phonetics and phonology?

Having practiced armchair linguistics for some years I should be able to sum up the difference off the top of my head, yet often I don't know which term to use. And looking them up on Wikipedia doesn'...
39
votes
9answers
195k views

What's the difference between syntax and grammar?

From what I've read, both terms have to do with the rules of formation of sentences. I've seen grammar used in mathematical contexts, in computability theory, where it has a precise definition. But ...
21
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7answers
1k views

What divides semantics from pragmatics?

To my understanding... Semantics is the raw meaning and connotations a word carries on it's own and pragmatics is the context-dependent meaning a word holds. Is this accurate? Can anyone explain it ...
18
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8answers
44k views

What is the difference between native language, first language, mother tongue and L1?

Note: I'm not a linguist, and I realize I might be treading in a grey area here. I'm wondering what the differences (and/or similarities) between native language, first language, mother tongue and L1 ...
6
votes
3answers
3k views

Definition(s) of phoneme

What different definitions of phoneme do you know? Please note that I'm not asking for an explanation of what phoneme is but rather for professional definitions. I'm interested in how the issue is ...
9
votes
3answers
14k views

What defines a language?

I'm reading around multimodal text and many of the readings I have come across (Kress, Halliday) seem to define language as spoken or written communication. That seems to exclude sign language and ...
13
votes
4answers
2k views

How are proper nouns distinguished from other nouns in linguistics (not in orthography)?

When you ask most people the difference between common nouns and proper nouns they mostly can only tell you that proper nouns start with a capital letter. But this has problems: Capital letters and ...
9
votes
3answers
12k views

What's the difference between recursion and embedding?

Chains of relative clauses and strings of attributive adjectives are both examples of recursion--Correct? Chains of relative clauses have each non-initial relative clause embedded within the previous ...
12
votes
3answers
3k views

Is a loanword also a cognate or are the two terms mutually exclusive?

A borrowing or loanword is when a word from language A is added to the lexicon of language B, with whatever phonological adaptations are necessary. But is a cognate only a word directly inherited ...
11
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5answers
72k views

What is recursion?

What is recursion? I've looked at the Wikipedia's explanation (recursion and then recursion in language) but that explanation is not really clear.
16
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3answers
19k views

Meaning of star/asterisk in linguistics

In some dictionaries/lexica, I've seen the asterisk in front of old words. What does it mean/stand for? Example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Germanic#Pre-Proto-Germanic *ǵʰóstis "stranger" >...
4
votes
6answers
388 views

Finite set of meaning blocks language

Lets assume that there is a language that has some relatively small set of meaning blocks, within 10-1000, so that any word can be composed from this meaning blocks. Each meaning block should have ...
13
votes
2answers
2k views

What's the difference between a form of a language and a dialect of a language?

I was wondering what's the difference between a form of a language and a dialect of a language? For example, Wikipedia states that British English is a form of English and not a dialect of English. ...
9
votes
5answers
6k views

What is the difference between a copula and a transitive verb?

I can only speak from an English perspective. Be seems to me to be a transitive verb, when joining a subject and an object, yet it is described as a copula. What I mean is The bullseye is the ...
7
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2answers
3k views

How do linguists define the idea of a grammatical subject?

How do linguists define the idea of a grammatical subject? The only place I could find on the Internet about linguists' definition of a grammatical subject was at the SIL glossary, here. (http://www-...
4
votes
2answers
826 views

Does the term “(highly) agglutinating language” refer to inflectional endings, word-formation processes, or both?

I had always thought agglutinative languages were inflected languages where the inflections to a greater degree are built up by multiple affixes, each having an atomic effect. (Unlike the -s on ...
2
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3answers
2k views

How do 'semantics' and 'meaning' differ?

Having read the following, I know that 'semantics' is a hyponym of semiotics, and semiotics a hyponym of 'meaning'. But the semblance of interchangeability between 'meaning' and 'semantics' in certain ...
2
votes
2answers
135 views

Name of rule for whether compounds should be written with a space or not

What is the name of the rule that describes why some words are written together (e.g. "strawberry") and others apart (e.g. "street name")?
14
votes
3answers
11k views

What is a mora?

What is a mora? I tried to read the Wikipedia article that answers this question, but found it difficult to understand. Ditto with the related LSE question: Is the concept of syllables ...
14
votes
2answers
13k views

What's the difference between accusative, unaccusative, ergative, and unergative?

What does it mean for a language or verb to be one or the other of these typologies (examples would help)? Can it be more than one at once?
10
votes
3answers
11k views

Is a diphthong one phoneme or two, or does it depend?

In Mitch's answer to "What is the difference between a diphthong and a glide?" and its comments it seems more than one of us is at least a bit confused as to how many phonemes a single diphthong ...
11
votes
5answers
28k views

What is the difference between a word root and a word stem?

What is the difference between a word's root and a word's stem?
13
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2answers
18k views

What is the difference between “anaphora” and “deixis”?

I've been trying to understand an answer from another SE site (Japanese Language & Usage) where the answer involves the differences between anaphora and deixis. Here is the link. What would be ...
8
votes
6answers
17k views

Argot vs Jargon

I'm stuck understanding the difference between argot and jargon. According to many sources, e.g. Wikipedia: Argot is a secret language used by various groups—including, but not limited to, thieves ...
5
votes
4answers
7k views

Why use the term 'mood' instead of 'mode'?

Both the terms 'mood' and 'modality' have been extensively used in the English grammar. First and foremost, modal auxiliaries such as 'can', 'may', 'should', 'must' are said to represent the 'mood', ...
8
votes
1answer
381 views

Relation between some linguistics terms

I am trying to draw a diagram to show relationship between these terms but I am not sure what is correct position of them is diagram. Can you please help to do that? What is relation of following ...
7
votes
3answers
283 views

Comparing writing systems by ease of encoding/decoding information

Considering the variety of systems of writing, the ease with which someone can receive written information in one system of writing is not precisely identical to that of any other, and I am curious to ...
10
votes
4answers
1k views

What are the criteria for deciding whether a language is “natural”?

I read in the Linguistics section on the Wikipedia page for American Sign Language that ASL was "proven [to be a natural language] to the satisfaction of the linguistic community by William Stokoe, ...
8
votes
6answers
2k views

Why is the definite article in Balkan languages always called a suffix when it really seems to be part of the inflection?

The Scandinavian languages have a suffix definite article which is pretty straightforwardly tacked on to to the ends of nouns: -en, -et. But in languages of the Balkan Sprachbund, Romanian, Bulgarian,...
7
votes
1answer
380 views

What are the differences between theoretical perspectives of the uses of the term “register”?

I'd be interested in asking people about their understanding of the term register and what this signifies for them. This would be a discussion about a specialised term and I'm sure there are multiple ...
6
votes
1answer
298 views

Are there different terms for when a language has two ways to spell a sound vs. two ways to pronounce a spelling?

In languages that don't have a perfect 1:1 mapping between sounds and letters in their written form there are two possibilities. In English "bow" and "bough" are two spellings with a single ...
6
votes
2answers
444 views

What is the difference between “Linguistic distance” and “Lexical distance”?

The question arose in the comments here.
6
votes
1answer
799 views

What is a native speaker, and at what point does someone become a native speaker?

Most often I hear that only birth languages, those languages first learned, are native languages to the speaker. Seems like a pretty lazy way to define if a speaker is a native speaker, since to speak ...
5
votes
2answers
697 views

Does linguistics have a concept of “set phrase” with a meaning differing from “idiom”?

I had long believed there was such a thing as a "set phrase". I thought I had learned it in my school days. Set phrases included but were not restricted to idioms. Idioms were a special class of set ...
2
votes
1answer
188 views

Words that translate to valid words in the source language

I recently learned that poison in English translates to gift in German. Is there a term for such pairings where the translated word is also a valid word (with unrelated meaning) in the source ...
10
votes
1answer
710 views

Markdown for linguistics?

Is there a Markdown dialect or other minimal markup language that is tailored to the needs of linguists (of all sorts)? I would expect it do treat the following constructs: An asterisk directly ...
22
votes
4answers
3k views

What is “case”?

As a non-linguist, I am confused about the concept of case. What is its definition, as linguists use it? Is it about the different forms that nouns/pronouns can take? Is it about the function of the ...
16
votes
6answers
983 views

Is there a term for the syntax difference between English “I like you” and Spanish “Tú me gustas”?

English and Spanish each have one main verb for "to like". In English "to like", the grammatical subject must be the one doing the appreciating: I like her. But with Spanish "gustar", the person ...
13
votes
5answers
4k views

What does “generative” mean? Can a linguistic theory be non-generative?

If we ignore the political distinction "theories of those who generally agree with Chomsky" vs "theories of those who generally disagree with him" (which is better described by "Chomskian" vs "non-...
6
votes
0answers
101 views

What currency does the term “flip sense verb” have in linguistics?

In a recent comment on the question Ergative Verbs and some discussion about them, jlawler introduced a term I had not previously encountered: The rose smells good is completely different; this ...
5
votes
3answers
609 views

Are there counterparts to phones and phonetics for signed languages?

Given that there is a difference between phonetics and phonology, and that in the study of signed languages cherology is the counterpart to phonology, are there also counterparts to phones and ...
13
votes
5answers
13k views

What is markedness?

I am confused about the meaning of markedness. From the Wikipedia page I read: The dominant term is known as the 'unmarked' term and the other, secondary one is the 'marked' term. In other words, ...
11
votes
3answers
7k views

What exactly is diglossia?

Any language has a formal variety, primarily (although not exclusively) used in writing, and one or more informal varieties, used in everyday speech. Yet, for some languages, like Norwegian and Arabic,...
11
votes
2answers
779 views

What is an “adjectival article”? Apparently Albanian “të” is one

Being in Albania I decided to sit down with a word frequency list of the language and look each up so I would know some of the common words I see around me. The second most common word in Albanian is ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

What is a middle voice and a medio-passive voice?

In order to explain the evolution of the third person accusative pronoun in IE languages, Mark Beadles makes use of the concepts of middle and medio-passive voices. But the discussion that followed ...
8
votes
2answers
628 views

Can the term “gerund” be linguistically defined?

The Wikipedia entry for gerund starts with a list that shows how the term is applied to various languages. And we can see that what the term actually means depends a lot on the specific language we ...
8
votes
1answer
3k views

Difference between ideogram and logogram?

I'm having a bit of trouble differentiating these, and I'm wondering if it's because these are generally fuzzy concepts and nobody cares much, if I haven't read into it enough, if my innate ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

How exactly are noun classes different to classifiers?

Before the beta I would've thought questions like this one would be such basic concepts that most contributors would be familiar with them. But after a few questions on gender and animacy it seems ...
4
votes
1answer
220 views

What “the hell” is this?

Take the following examples: For the hell of it! How the hell... What the hell... Where the hell... Who the hell... The hell you are! Is there any linguistic term with respect to "the hell". "on ...
3
votes
0answers
9k views

Are 'reference', 'sense', 'connotation', 'denotation', 'intension', and 'extension' mutually distinct terms?

Assumptions Reference: a unique and real entity that an expression represents. Sense: a facet of a referent that an expression represents. Connotation: the settled emotional content of an expression ...